03 Mar 2023

Finding characters for a story is important: Anupama Chandrasekaran

Fancy equipment not required to record good-quality sound, says audio journalist

“We should all be able to find our personal way of telling a story,” said Anupama Chandrasekaran, an audio journalist at Newsreel Asia. She said she uses audio to tell the stories she hears, experiences, or looks for.

“Audio narratives are a part of everyday life, a literary way to tell stories,” she added.

Addressing IIJNM students on March 3, 2023, she spoke about the importance of finding characters for a story irrespective of which medium the story goes up on— audio (podcasts), video (bulletins), or as text.

She recommended some podcasts during the lecture: Om Alone in India, American Surrogate, Radio Lab podcasts, Today in Focus, and This American Life.

How the story is woven into “a magnetizing story” adds that extra touch. “You don’t always need fancy equipment to record good-quality audio,” she said while showing the students how a pillow fort with blankets works perfectly as a sound studio.

“When I was in the fifth grade, my father thrust empty audio tapes into my hands and nudged me to record conversations with my octogenarian grandmother. These anecdote-rich soundscapes, culled during sleepy vacation afternoons, have shaped my audio journey,” Chandrasekaran said while recalling how she began her audio journey.

The speaker gave the students an example of how to build a narrative using her podcast Desi Stones and Bones, which is about ancient humans and fossils in India. The stories in the podcast cover topics like sea dragon tooth and fossil avalanche stories. It unravels the mysteries of an unidentified fossil and much more.

The talk concluded with Chandrasekaran discussing narrative structures and the structure of a narrative podcast. It usually follows the three-act structure, but five- and seven-act structures can be used as well, she said.

Chandrasekaran specialises in immersive sound-rich, character-driven narrative audio stories. Her audio stories have been published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Deutsche Welle and the American Geophysical Union.

She has worked with Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times,Business Standard, Mint, The Scroll and The Wire.

By M. Surabhi

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